Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue


Review: This is a powerful book, with a very strong first half, and a second half that drags in comparison. Room tells the story of Ma and five-year-old Jack. Jack and Ma are held captive and live in a very small room. Jack narrates the book, and he just really annoyed me. I get it, he’s five years old, but it was a little much (which I think was the point). The brilliance though of having the story told with Jack’s perspective, is that it leaves Ma as a bit of a mystery, and you get pieces of her story here and there, making this book one that you should pay attention to as you read. So, as much as Jack annoyed me (too much focus on breastfeeding, and he just never slowed down!) I think it was a smart choice of narrator. I don’t think we’d get the sense of mystery and wonder if we had Ma narrate.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, which is why I didn’t type a synopsis up, but there are two distinct parts to this book, with a section in the middle that is absolutely spellbinding. While I was reading this middle section my heart was pounding and I wanted to reach through the book and help Jack. I read this book fairly quickly, as I just couldn’t stop reading! It is extremely well written.

But even though I enjoyed the writing, I didn’t particularly care for the book. Like I said earlier, Jack annoyed me. He just had so much energy and reading his thoughts just made me exhausted. I think this was the point, to further emphasize the energy trapped in Room and Ma’s lack of escape. I wanted to know more about Ma, but this is really Jack’s story.

I mentioned above that there are two distinct parts to the book. The first part is the better section. The writing is tight and claustrophobic, with a sense of danger and tension everywhere. The second part of Room drags. And drags. It was still a quick read, but I was increasingly frustrated in the last parts of the book. In the first half, I was annoyed with Jack, and with the second half, I was frustrated with other characters and their behavior.

This was made into a movie fairly recently, with Brie Larson, who plays Ma, winning the Oscar for Best Actress. I really enjoyed the character of Ma in the book, she is one tough, strong woman, and so I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie. I’m actually thinking that the movie may turn out better than the book. Gasp! Can it be so?! I hope to watch it soon and if I do I’ll write up a From Page To Screen review. I also think that this would be an excellent book club choice.

Bottom Line: Powerful, and a quick read, but annoying. Drags towards the end. I have high hopes for the movie.


22 thoughts on “Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

    1. Interesting. I think I was just so frustrated with everyone’s behavior towards Jack. They all wanted him to instantly adjust, and he couldn’t, and shouldn’t have been expected to adjust immediately. I did find it fascinating to learn about the issues he had with his eyesight and his hearing due to growing up in that small space.

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      1. I just felt extremely nervous throughout the first half, and I was so happy when they finally got out. I also thought all the medical stuff and adjusting to the real world was super fascinating.

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        1. Yeah – the first half was so suspenseful, and then that heartstopping section where Jack escapes had me glued to my seat! It really was very well written, and such an interesting story. Really made me think about survival and the human spirit.

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  1. I thought the book was really smartly written. Jack is precocious but engaging, and his relationship with Ma is so powerful as a result of his narration. I agree with you about the middle section – it’s the most pulse-pounding section of any book I’ve read recently, and that’s testament to the strength of the writing and the characters Donoghue has written. Feel free to check out my (very very short) review of it on my blog if you want!

    Also the film is fantastic, a truly fantastic adaption of the book IMHO.

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    1. That middle section was so intense! I truly had no idea if Jack was going to be able to escape – I was staying away from the movie previews and reading anything about the book, so I was truly on the edge of my seat. The book was very well written. I’m looking forward to the movie!

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  2. I watched the film and I hate to break it to you, but the second half there suffers from the same “dragging on” problem that you mentioned about the book. Maybe it was because the first half was so good that the second half failed to match up to that.
    Thanks for the nice review. Happy blogging. God bless. 🙂

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    1. Interesting that the second half drags in the movie too. I was hoping that with the story being told using a different medium that that particular issue would be solved in the movie. I was trying to stay away from all movie previews, etc before I read the book, and I was really surprised watching the trailer (after I finished the book) at how much of the plot was given away. I guess that’s the norm now… I’m really looking forward to watching the movie!

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  3. Maybe it’s just me, moaning about the second half of the film. But in spite of that, the film is worth your time. As for spoilers in trailers, that’s a lamentable reality in this day and age. The Girl On The Train, another book adaptation coming this year, also gave away so much in the trailer released last month.

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    1. I totally agree about the trailer for The Girl on the Train! There was too much shown! But, I asked my husband, who hasn’t read the book, who-dun-it after he watched the trailer, and he didn’t guess correctly, so perhaps the trailer works for those unfamiliar with the book. I wish trailers wouldn’t show so much, but sadly, they do.

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      1. That’s good news. With the vast majority of moviegoers being non-readers, hopefully they will not have a problem.
        And yes, I too wish, however futilely, that they don’t give away as much.

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  4. Funnily enough I watched the film last night. The first part of the book whizzes by. The middle bit is beyond gripping. But the last bit drags a bit. Still worth a watch though. It’s not comfortable viewing, but neither is the book comfortable reading. Bronte

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  5. I’ve never read this and always feel as if I’m missing out just because it’s so well-known. But it also sounds like the kind of story that wouldn’t immediately appeal to me. Perhaps I’ll get around to it someday!

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    1. It’s a tough read due to subject matter, but it is very compelling, and is very intense. It was a very quick read, and extremely well written. But with that said, it’s not really a book I can like. It would be a good book club selection because there is just so much to discuss about the book.

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  6. I also thought the second half dragged and disappointed compared to the incredibly powerful first half. But overall, it’s such a good read that it gets my earnest recommendation. It’s a great book for people who aren’t big readers. The concept is fascinating and will certainly keep your attention.

    The movie was wonderful! I was very pleased with the adaptation. 🙂

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    1. That’s a good point how the book is great for people who aren’t big readers. It was well written and suspenseful and it makes you think. Honestly the book hasn’t left my mind since I finished it. Glad to hear the movie was great! I just got my Netflix copy today, so hope to be able to watch it soon.


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